30 years after Nicolas Roeg’s terrifying take on The Witches comes Robert Zemeckis’ 2020 version. With the 1990 version still much-loved (and much-feared), Zemeckis had quite a hurdle to get over, and unfortunately doesn’t make it.

The opening half-hour, set in 1960s America, is a superb setting for young Hero’s sad story. It’s colourful and vibrant; a nice addition to this well-known tale. Octavia Spencer brings her usual gravitas to the role of Grandma, very much a safe pair of hands to set up the creepy goings-on. Moments in this big build-up are genuinely unsettling, however, once the witches and their evil scheme have all been properly unveiled, things begin to flounder and lose all their momentum. 

Anne Hathaway gives a truly madcap performance, her accent managing to cover every country between England and Russia.  She is clearly having a lot of fun, managing to carry the film through the moments that drag. In particular her make-up is fantastic and just as creepy as Anjelica Huston’s in the 1990 version.

Sadly it’s the digital elements that bring the production’s quality down. For a film that relies heavily on animated creatures, the CGI is a far cry from the effects in Disney’s latest offerings, and certain moments look downright low-budget in among the glamour of the gorgeous set designs. Alongside an underused Stanley Tucci and rather annoying child/mouse characters, everything feels like it could’ve been done just that bit better. 

Just days after the releases of the disappointing The Secret Garden and Rebecca, 2020 has not been that kind to reimaginings of much-loved classics. While The Witches is probably the strongest of this rather lacklustre bunch, if it weren’t for Spencer and Hathaway, this would be an altogether forgettable film. Luckily, their performances make this a fairly enjoyable watch just in time for Halloween.



CAST: Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci

DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis

WRITERS: Robert Zemeckis, Kenya Barris, Guillermo del Toro (screenplay by); Roald Dahl (based on the book by)

SYNOPSIS: Based on Roald Dahl’s 1983 classic book ‘The Witches’, the story tells the scary, funny and imaginative tale of a seven year old boy who has a run in with some real life witches.